5 Secrets to Living La Dolce Vita
A guide to Italian style, sports cars and the perfect pasta al dente.
Wisps of mist float above a patchwork of vineyards while the early morning sun paints the sky a soft pink. From the medieval village on the ridge above, you hear the sound of church bells as your convertible zigzags past the vines. It may be early, but you’re already dreaming of fresh pasta al dente and a drop of Barolo for a lazy lunch on a sunny terrace.
For Italians, this is perfection. This is la dolce vita.
In The Good Italian II: The Prince Goes to Milan – a short film presented by the Italian menswear brand Caruso – the fictional Prince of Soragna embodies la dolce vita from the moment his Lancia Aurelia sports car pulls up at the entrance of Four Seasons Hotel Milano. Throughout the film and his stay at the Hotel, the prince (played masterfully by actor Giancarlo Giannini) seeks out and enjoys only the finest in food, entertainment, fashion, accommodations and service. He requests perfection in every bite, in every experience.
And he’s not alone. Italians from Florence to Milan have an appetite for only the finest cashmere, the most fragrant basil and the most handsome sports cars. Together, these are essential ingredients of la dolce vita, a unique recipe for life that locals have been perfecting for centuries.
Fortunately, they’re quick to share their secrets with anyone craving to live like an Italian.
“In Italy we always look to share happiness with another human being and try to make the most of that moment. The food, wine and the experience of living – it is only beautiful if you can share it with somebody.”
– Mauro Governato, Four Seasons Hotel Milano
1. “Liguria is to pasta what Naples is to pizza”
Italians are passionate about food. On the street, you’ll hear people sharing recipes and debating about where to find their favourite ingredients. Vito Mollica, Executive Chef at La Veranda and Il Palagio, is particularly proud of his linguine with pesto, a highlight in the film.
He learned the art of making linguine in Liguria, the rugged coastal region in northern Italy where it originated. “Liguria is to pasta what Naples is to pizza. You won’t understand pasta unless you have been trained by a Ligurian,” the chef says with a smile.
The linguine is one of Mollica’s most popular dishes, and the chef loves to share his special recipe with guests, who can venture into the kitchen for a private class. And like the prince in the film, he is very particular when choosing the ingredients to go with his signature pasta.
“It’s important to use the freshest ingredients and the best technique so we produce something really amazing.”
– Vito Mollica, Executive Chef
“Liguria is a small, hilly region, so they made terraces on the hills to grow their vegetables,” he says. “They don’t produce a lot, but they produce the highest-quality artichokes, asparagus and basil.”
2. Spezzato is the key to great Italian style
Italians dress to impress, and competition is especially fierce on the streets of Milan, the country’s fashion capital. After all, this is the land of spezzato, a word created especially to describe the artful way Italian men mix and match jackets and trousers versus simply suiting up.
Here, style is more than just looking the part – you must live and breathe it through a commitment to top-tier fabrics and tailoring, worn with an air of unstudied, effortless elegance. The prince in the film is the picture of Italian swagger, from that first flip of the scarf as he takes off for the Hotel to the moment when he lovingly caresses the suit he knows is perfect for the occasion.
The best way to start crafting your own Italian style identity is to mimic the masters, and, thankfully, Four Seasons Milano is located in the heart of the city’s fashion district – with big-name designers like Salvatore Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana and Tod’s only a short stroll away.
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Right next to the Hotel, Caruso has an elegant boutique displaying the finest apparel, worn by the prince as he listens to one of the operas of Italian legend Giuseppe Verdi.
At Caruso, hundreds of fine fabrics are available, including cashmere, wool blends, gabardine flannels, houndstooth and even camel’s hair from the Gobi Desert that is specially crafted for Caruso. Perfection can be subjective, so at Caruso, each suit is completely customised down to every last artistic detail, including individual patterns and hand-stitching.
“Italians are only happy with what they think is the best. You can trace la dolce vita back 2,500 years. The ancient Romans lived such a level of sophistication that it has not been matched. That is who we are, and we do it effortlessly.”
– Umberto Angeloni, Caruso President and CEO
3. Embrace la bella figura
Italians like to create a good impression wherever they go. You might call it showing off; they call it la bella figura. The prince in the film teaches us that the best way to arrive in style is behind the wheel of an Italian sports car – with the convertible top down, sunshine streaming in and opera playing on the radio.
Four Seasons Milano can arrange for guests to take a similar drive behind the wheel of a Giulietta Spider, an Italian classic that experts say is one of the best-kept secrets in the vintage car market.
Hop into the roadster and travel 55 miles (90 kilometres) out of the city, along picturesque, tree-lined lanes and quaint villages, to arrive at the deep-blue waters of Lake Como. Then spend the day zipping around the town’s spectacular pastel-coloured villas, stopping only to admire the views and dine at a lakefront restaurant.
“All you have to do is enjoy the car,” Hotel Concierge Gabriele Conte says of this outing. “We send a mechanic to follow you and to offer personal assistance like taking care of the parking. This is living la dolce vita.”
4. Every moment deserves amore
For Italians, a good meal is not solely about delectable dishes. Flavour goes hand in hand with amore and creating the right setting to indulge in both. After all, the prince wasn’t just after the perfect sprig of basil – he needed the perfect place to share the moment with his niece.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze takes care of the meal, the magical setting and every detail in between during its Golden Dinner on the Ponte Vecchio experience. The Hotel has exclusive access to the city’s most famous bridge and its only open-air terrace, tucked above the famous jewellery boutique of Dante Cardini. Here, you can enjoy a romantic and private dinner for two.
“You can have a magic moment. We work on every detail so the experience is shared . . . in a perfect way.”
– Vito Mollica, Executive Chef
The crowded streets below are forgotten as soon as the intimate dinner begins with a glass of chilled Champagne. As the sun sets, enjoy a four-course gourmet meal, inspired by the many jewellery stores below, created especially for the occasion by Michelin-starred chef Vito Mollica.
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5. Everyone is famiglia
Ask any Italian: The best way to enjoy la dolce vita is with someone you treasure, be it family, friends or a soulmate. Yet Italians are also happy to open their doors and offer hospitality to people from faraway places. Everyone is welcome.
“[Life] is only beautiful if you can share it with somebody.”
– Mauro Governato, Four Seasons Hotel Milano
For Paul Lydka, Concierge at Four Seasons Firenze, one of his favourite things about living la dolce vita is stopping in an unfamiliar village to order a bread roll with pecorino and prosciutto, along with a glass of Chianti. “It’s very special,” he says. “You’ll find Italians are very sociable. In the villages, they start a conversation even if you only say ‘buongiorno.’ Language is no barrier.”Angeloni echoes this sentiment: “Italians know how to live well – we know how to create pleasure, whether it’s a dish of pasta or a landscape. It is part of our identity, and it is something we have to share.”
Experience Italian culture and la dolce vita through the Florentine Lifestyle and Milano Lifestyle packages on offer at Four Seasons Firenze and Four Seasons Milano today. In the video below, get a taste of the only-in-Italy art, culture, fashion and dining experiences that await in both destinations.